Georgetown Reach exposes rising 8th graders to college admissions

A new program launched and funded by Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business aims to prepare rising 8th grade students and their families for the college application process. Called Georgetown Reach, the program connects with students early enough to influence their high school choices—and to make sure they’re poised to attend their desired college when the time comes. 

Increasing diversity at top-tier colleges

Georgetown Reach, which is overseen by Georgetown McDonough professors Bonnie Montano and George Comer, seeks to increase diversity at top-tier postsecondary institutions by exposing high-performing students from underrepresented groups to the college experience and educating them about the college selection process. 

According to its website, the program invites participation from students “who might otherwise be overlooked or miss opportunities during their high school careers due to lack of knowledge about college planning, socioeconomic status, or other societal barriers to their long-term success.”  

Program Co-director Comer points out that students often need guidance on how to view their experiences as meaningful. “While academics are critically important, developing a compelling story and introducing young students and their families to the college selection process and college life can dramatically influence choices they make in high school,” he says.

Connecting with Georgetown students and faculty

Originally designed as a summer program, Georgetown Reach this year spread its events across fall 2020 to ensure there would be adequate time to plan and provide value to students during the pandemic. The new program kicked off with a virtual “Meet the Georgetown Student” event, offering expert insight on topics such as which classes to take and how to understand the financial aid process. 

In addition, undergraduate business students in the Georgetown Aspiring Minority Business Leaders & Entrepreneurs (GAMBLE) club volunteered to share their perspectives on the Georgetown college experience. “Working with the Reach students was such an impactful program for me as a graduating senior,” said Bryce Badger, GAMBLE’s co-president. “Programs like this help get minority students excited about the future and show us what’s possible, which is absolutely critical to continuing to strengthen the college pipeline for minority students.” The Reach students “asked thought-provoking questions about time management and the transitions from high school to college,” adds Comer. 

Reach expects to run three, one-week programs in the summer of 2021. Participants, who attend at no cost, will take classes taught by business school professors, discuss current events, eat in the dining hall, and tour campus to better understand life as a college student. “Interacting with current Georgetown students is the first exposure our Reach students have to learning about the advantages of not only a Georgetown education, but what college is truly like,” says Program Co-Director Montano.

Engaging parents and guardians

Georgetown Reach engages parents and guardians, too. The program includes a mandatory parents’ seminar on preparing for postsecondary education, covering topics such as financial aid, high school class selection, exam timelines, and the college admissions process.  

The program also maintains lasting contact with students and parents through voluntary seminars and mentoring. Program organizers hope the ongoing access to professors and programming will help students develop into strong candidates for admission at the college of their choice and help parents feel prepared at every step of the process. 

Families who participated in Georgetown Reach last fall “felt like they truly benefited from the information, and parents left feeling more encouraged than ever that their children should consider top-tier universities, and that they are better equipped with the information needed to achieve that dream,” Comer says.

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